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11-year-old girl can't be 'willing' in sex

By Jane Velez-Mitchell, Special to CNN
  • Jane Velez-Mitchell says people shocked in Texas town where girl allegedly gang-raped
  • But she says what was really shocking were comments from residents seeming to blame girl
  • She says there's no situation where sex with 11-year-old girl is consensual
  • Velez-Mitchell: Question people should be asking is: Where were parents of the suspects?
  • Crime
  • Child Abuse
  • Sexual Offenses
  • Texas

Editor's note: Jane Velez-Mitchell hosts "ISSUES with Jane Velez-Mitchell," a topical event-driven show with a wide range of viewpoints that airs every night at 7 p.m. ET on HLN.

(CNN) -- What's more shocking than the gang rape of an 11-year-old girl? The fact that some people are actually blaming the little girl.

The nation gasped when police recently arrested 18 men and boys, ranging in age from 14 to 27, in the alleged gang rape of an unnamed 11-year old child last November. There was a second gasp when police revealed they only found out about it after graphic cell phone videos of the assaults were circulated.

The horrific event occurred in a small Texas town about 50 miles outside of Houston. Reports are that the town has become deeply divided with some blaming the girl and her parents. Some residents told reporters that the girl hung out with older boys at the playground, liked to dress older than her age and wore makeup. And the relevance of those claims to the crime of her being raped would be... what exactly? Perhaps she looked a little older? Say... 13?

Is someone actually suggesting there could be any justification for any human being getting gang raped, much less an underage girl? Sadly, pathetically, yes. That seems to be exactly what some people are suggesting.

First, an attorney for some of the suspects described the girl as someone who had a "desire to be a willing participant." That was followed by the arrival in town of a Houston-based community activist named Quanell X who stood before a group of local parents and exclaimed, "It was not the young girl that yelled rape! Stop right there. Something is wrong brothers and sisters... Where was her mother? Where was her father? Where was her family?"

Perhaps more disturbing than his words were the murmurs of approval from the crowd. How about asking, "Where were the parents of the 14-year-old boy who is now accused of raping the 11-year-old girl?"

The truth is, in attempting to support the accused boys and men, those who would censure the child and her family are not exactly helping the suspects. If the defense attorneys take this tack at trial it could boomerang badly, enraging the jury.

Here's why I see this ugly dialogue emerging. Normally, if you want to win support for a suspect you say the authorities have got the wrong person. In this case, police maintain they have video evidence of rapes in progress. So, the fall-back position seems to be that somehow the girl asked for it. Bad fall back position.

Even if this girl was screaming from the rooftops that she wanted sex, everybody should know that an 11-year-old girl is too young to consent to having sex. There is no such thing as consensual sex with an 11-year-old girl.

I have compassion for the families of the suspects who have also seen their lives shattered. Several of the suspects are underage boys. If they were involved as charged, I suspect these younger boys, especially the 14-year-old, could be seen as victims themselves, likely lured into allegedly committing an act they barely understood under tremendous peer pressure from older males who were in the throes of a sick version of group think. Locking minors away for decades doesn't solve anything.

If these crimes did occur as prosecutors say they did, then we -- as a society -- must figure out what messages young males are getting in today's culture that would lead them to think that having any sex, much less group sex, with an 11-year-old girl is OK and should even be videotaped and shown to friends.

Are boys and men being taught that women are to be respected and protected and that a female's body is sacred, a child's body especially so? Well, you won't find that message on any recently produced music videos. We live in a hyper-sexualized culture where the prevailing message is: Sex is like fast food, gorge on it thoughtlessly and damn the consequences.

It's really up to parents to counteract the over-sexualized imagery in today's world. If parents don't instruct their kids on the narrow boundaries of respectful behavior toward the opposite sex, their kids won't learn it anywhere else. So, perhaps the question of the day in that small Texas town should be, "Where were all the suspects' parents?"

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jane Velez-Mitchell.